Sunday 6 October 2013

U.S Box Office Report - 3rd - 6th October 2013

1. Gravity - $55.6M - $55.6M
2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2  - $21.5M - $60.5M
3. Runner Runner- $7.6M - $7.6M
4. Prisoners - $5.7M - $47.8M
5. Rush - $4.4M - $18M
6. Don Jon - $4.16M -$16M
7. Baggage Claim - $4.10M -$15.1M
8. Insidious Chapter 2 - $3.8M - $74.7M
9. Pulling Strings - $2.5M - $2.5M
10. Enough Said - $2.1M - $5.3M

This weekend finally sees the long-awaited release of the science fiction thriller Gravity. It was set to take on Runner Runner, a low key drama with a fairly high profile cast. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 dominated last weekend and looked to build on that this frame, especially with no direct competition to get in its way. Ahead to next weekend and we have the Tom Hanks real life drama Captain Philips, which is set to take on Robert Rodriguez' Grindhouse themed sequel, Machete Kills.
The premise for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is simplicity itself. A veteran astronaut and a bio-medical engineer on her first space mission are cast adrift when debris crashes into their shuttle during a space walk. With limited oxygen and no communication with mission control, the duo must work together to get to find a safe haven in their increasingly desperate situation. Gravity has been a long time coming. The director, with the help of his son, Jonas, came up with the basic plot several years ago, but the project was put on the backburner at Universal Studios and Cuarón went on to direct Children of Men. In 2010, Warner Bros. acquired the property, and set Robert Downey Jnr for the role of astronaut Matt Kowalski. The female lead and central character would require some skill to pull off, including as it does, very long single-take sequences of little or no dialogue. Angelina Jolie expressed an interest in taking on the role of Dr Ryan Stone after opting not to return for a Wanted sequel. However the studio balked at her $20M asking price, and the two parted company. Jolie would instead concentrate her efforts on her directorial debut, In The Land of Blood and Honey. Cuarón's quest to cast the role of Dr Stone continued through 2010, and would take in Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively. The studio were even willing to cast Natalie Portman without a screen-test but the young actress couldn't commit due to scheduling conflicts. Cuarón and WB then approached Sandra Bullock, who was coming off Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and had recently won an Oscar for her dramatic turn in The Blind Side. She tentatively accepted, but just as the project began to move forward, Downey Jnr left to take on a role in Shawn Levy's How To Talk To Girls. His replacement, George Clooney, was announced alongside Bullock's casting, in December 2010. A release date of November 2012 was initially put into place.

With a budget of $100M and a plan to revolutionise the way 3D was used in movies, Cuarón worked with Chris Parker and Tim Webber to visualise scenes, shooting the live action sequences at Shepperton, beginning in May 2011. With filming complete, extensive post-production work could get underway, and as rumours of 20 minute single-take shots began to surface, Gravity quickly became the must-see film of 2012. With some impressive early word from test screenings in May 2012 came the bad news that the picture had slipped into 2013. It would be another seven months before WB settled on a new release date - a further ten months into the future. With so long to wait, things went very quiet on Gravity until the first trailer was unleashed in May 2013 - to almost universal praise. But in a move that has seemingly become the norm, the studio revealed more and more footage, either in the form of clips or additional trailers. With $100M at stake, and a film with only two main characters, with extended dialogue free sequences, this was going to be a tough sell despite the spectacle of the footage. Reviews have been little short of exceptional, with Gravity scoring a 98% approval rating - critics highlighting Bullock's performance as well as the staggering visuals.

With only limited competition from the new and existing releases, the picture was set to open at 3,575 locations. Early reports from online vendor Fandango put the 3D ticket sales ratio at 91% - 1% higher than those for Avatar's opening weekend. From Thursday evening screenings, Gravity made $1.4M, which led to a very strong Friday haul of $17.5M. Obviously nothing else in release came close to that figure, and it set the picture up for a very impressive, perhaps even record breaking October weekend. As Saturday came to a close, Gravity had actually increased its takings on the previous day, adding another $23M. By Sunday night it was sitting on a three-day figure of $55.5M - a brand new record for an October release, surpassing the $52.5M earnt by Paranormal Activity 3. This was an incredibly impressive showing, credit to all concerned, particularly of late the studio's marketing, which pushed 3D/Imax screenings as the proper way to see the film. (Imax accounted for 20% of that opening figure, with 3D equating to $44M).  This is easily the best opening weekend for both leads (Gravity finally smashed Clooney's long standing Batman & Robin record) and sets the picture up for a potential $130M+ in the US. Internationally Gravity earned $27.4M - a figure expected to rise rapidly in the coming weeks. Next weekend will certainly be an interesting one, especially if the fantastic word of mouth continues to spread.

The Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs sequel opened to $34M last weekend. While it didn't take the September record, it was still seen by many, including studio Sony, as a solid enough start. With no direct competition, it was expected to give up the top spot to Gravity, but still see a decent second frame figure. By Thursday night it had earnt $39M - roughly half of what it cost to produce. With the two new releases in play, Meatballs 2 made $4.7M on its second Friday, a slightly high fall of 49% on the same day last weekend. In comparison, its predecessor, which opened to $30M, fell just 31% in the same time frame. As is the norm with family films, Saturday and Sunday matinee showings improved things quite dramatically in this case, allowing the animated sequel to finish up with a weekend total of $21.5M (an overall fall of 37%).  That means that after ten days, it has taken $60.5M (the original did $60.4M in that period). Thanks to no direct competition until November, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 will have no problem reaching $100M, but the jury is still out as to whether it'll best the $124M scored by the first film.

The only other major release this weekend is the thriller Runner Runner, which stars Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arteton and Ben Affleck. The picture follows college student Richie Furst (Timerlake) who ends up cheated out of his tuition money by an online poker site, run by Ivan Block (Affleck, who was the bomb in Phantoms). Heading to a remote island location, Furst plans on confronting Block, but soon finds himself becoming his protege. However trouble soon rears its head when the FBI attempt to use one man to take down the other. Runner Runner is directed by Brad Furman, whose last picture was the Matthew McConaughey thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer. Shooting took place last summer, but despite the on screen talent, hype was kept fairly low key, with just two trailer and two clips released to support the feature. Critics certainly weren't impressed, with it scoring just a 9% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. With Gravity, Rush and Prisoners having the dramatic market sewn up, Runner Runner faced an uphill struggle to get itself noticed. It opened in third place on Friday, with a somewhat disappointing $2.75M, and never really managed to recover from there. It would make another $3M on Saturday, and $1.8M on Sunday, bringing it opening figure to a very soft $7.6M. Curiously, if you remove limited releases, this opening is the weakest of Timberlake's career to date. Even with only a $30M budget attached, Runner Runner is going to struggle domestically, but in the long term will be ok, thanks in part to a slightly stronger (at the time of writing) overseas performance.

With Gravity dominating the dramatic market, both Rush and Prisoners slipped down this week. Of the two, the Hugh Jackman feature, which sees him becoming a man of obsessed with finding his missing daughter, performed the best, making $5.7M this weekend. To date, that means Prisoners has made $47.8M, just about recouping its production budget. While its unlikely to hit $70M domestically, it will still see a solid return on the investment, not to mention the potential award recognition in the coming months. It also stands a good chance of performing well overseas, where Jackman is arguably more popular.

Meanwhile Rush, the Ron Howard picture that follows the lives of Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, dropped down to fifth place this weekend, making $4.4M in the process. That gives the $38M flick a cumulative gross of $18M. While F1 may not be as popular in the US as it is elsewhere, Rush is getting by on the sterling central performances of Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. Overseas it has now made over $30M, a figure that should continue to climb as word spreads.

Like Prisoners and Rush, Don Jon and Baggage Claim continued to spar throughout the week, with the former managing to pull ahead (and stay that way) for the duration. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt operating on three levels (actor, writer and director) Don Jon scored some impressive reviews and managed to recoup its meagre costs within its first three days on general release. A week on saw it at fifth place on Friday, making $1.4M in the process. A further $2.7M on Saturday and Sunday brought its second frame total to $4.16M. In all, to date, Don Jon has earnt $16M and should yet manage at least one more frame inside the top ten. Next up for Levitt is a role in the long-awaited Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For.

Rom-com Baggage Claim didn't fair quite as well as Don Jon, and by Thursday was down to making just over $400K. But with its low budget also covered from its opening few days, this was ultimately little concern to Fox Searchlight. In its second frame, Baggage Claim made $1.2M on Friday (down 63% on the same day last week), leading to a weekend total of $4.10M. Overall, that brings its total to $15.1M, and sets it up for a domestic finish of around $25-30M.

Horror flick Insidious Chapter 2 added $3.8M this weekend, its fourth on general release. The low budget release which stars Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson has now made $74.7M stateside, with a further $12M on the international market. It may see one more frame inside the top ten before heading to the home market. No word yet on whether we'll see a third chapter, but given the cost to profit ratio, it would seem almost inevitable.

Surprise top ten entry, Pulling Strings is a bilingual comedy about a mariachi singer trying to balance his day job with raising his daughter. The situation is further complicated when her visa application is rejected, meaning she is unable to visit her grandparents in the US. Could a chance meeting with the woman who turned down the request help turn the situation around? Pulling Strings was out to 387 theatres and made a solid $2.5M.

Also managing to crack the top ten from only 437 locations is the bitter-sweet comedy drama, Enough Said, which stars Julie Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. Having opened to an impressive $232K from only 4 theatres, Fox Searchlight expanded the film into  another 223 locations last weekend and were rewarded with a $2M haul. Further expansion this frame allowed it a tenth place finish and a $2.1M total. To date, Enough Said, which also stars Toni Collette and Catherine Keener, has made $5.3M.

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